Sunday, February 28, 2021

Where have all the Chessmen gone?

On a lighter note this grey morning: I’ve written to Pepperidge Farm about the disappearance of chess imagery from its Chessmen cookies. No, it’s not so-called cancel culture; the name still ends in -men. But there’s not a chess piece in the package. Here’s what I’ve written:

I’m a big fan of Pepperidge Farm products and have been for years. I remember PF cookies back when the packaging featured old-timey engravings on the side. My question: why do Chessmen cookies now have no chess pieces depicted? I see a sun, a house, a plant, and a watering can. The cookies taste just fine, but where did the chess pieces go? And how can the cookies still be Chessmen?

These questions are idle, but they’re also genuine. Thanks for your reply.
I hope to share a reply. But if they just send coupons, I’ll keep them for myself.

Later today: I noticed the words “Seasonal Prints” in the bottom right corner of the package. “Would you call that fine print?” I asked Elaine. “No.”

Related reading
A handful of Pepperidge Farm posts

Recently updated

#Sedition3PTruck Now with links to articles from USA Today and The Washington Post.

H. Neil Matkin again, again

At Collin College, H. Neil Matkin, president, brooks no opposition. He has fired one of his strongest critics, Lora D. Burnett, a professor of history whom he had publicly criticized for her negative tweets about Mike Pence. He has fired two other professors, Audra Heaslip, a professor of humanities, and Suzanne Jones, a professor of education, both of whom have criticized the school’s COVID-19 policies. Matkin’s stated attitude toward COVID: “I have chosen to never live my life in fear.”

Heaslip and Jones just happen to be two of the three leaders of the school’s chapter of the Texas Faculty Association, a union-like organization. Talk about heads on pikes.

Related posts
Meet H. Neil Matkin : H. Neil Matkin again

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Today’s Newsday Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword is by the redoubtable Lars G. Doubleday, aka Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber. It’s a good one. What’s the old saying? A Saturday Stumper by any other name, &c.? This puzzle felt quite Stumpish. A good old good one, as Louis Armstrong might have said. Which makes me think of a possible Armstrong-themed crossword clue: ten letters, “Explosive preparation.”

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

1-A, five letters, “Half of a sitcom psychiatrist pair.” I hope that when the one returns, the other will too.

3-D, seven letters, “Research outfit.” Makes me think of a certain musician.

6-D, seven letters, “Sonny of jazz sax fame.” There are at least two possible answers. For most solvers, just one.

7-D, eight letters, “Make sour.” I like the way the clue blurs the line between different kinds of sourness.

11-D, seven letters, “Three-sided wall adornment.” Common in comics, movies, and television shows. Has anyone ever seen one in real life?

17-A, nine letters, “Ancient ‘white,’ ‘venerable’ city near Rome.” Yep, that’s the one.

21-A, three letters, “Easter precursor.” LEN? Simple but deceptive.

39-A, six letters, “Magnet collector.” I like the idea of something attracting magnets.

56-D, three letters, “Thing in some packs.” Not PEZ.

My favorite pairs in this puzzle:

30-A, eight letters, “Duke’s fall, e.g.” Very clever. I had a fleeting thought that the answer must be a French word. That’s what can happen from reading Proust.

50-A, seven letters. “Throw back quickly.” Yes, now that the puzzle’s done, shall we?

One quarrel: 37-D, seven letters, “Victorian syntax.” The clue is a pun, really, and the answer is delightful, but it’s a matter of semantics not syntax.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Recently updated

#Sedition3PTruck With new developments. I’ll continue to add to the post as appropriate.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Small pleasures

When I saw this oatmeal cookie, I thought dog. But it’s pretty clearly a bear.

[No. 4 in a series.]

At Smith College and elsewhere

The New York Times tells the story of an encounter in a Smith College dorm lounge, the campus history that preceded the encounter, and the aftermath:

This is a tale of how race, class and power collided at the elite 145-year-old liberal arts college, where tuition, room and board top $78,000 a year and where the employees who keep the school running often come from working-class enclaves beyond the school’s elegant wrought iron gates. The story highlights the tensions between a student’s deeply felt sense of personal truth and facts that are at odds with it.
This story reminded me of two incidents from my teaching career. For many years, I went into my office on Sunday mornings to get work done. The building was always locked, and empty aside from another faculty member here or there. One morning I noticed two young men rounding the corner at the far end of the hallway. They were wearing black trench coats. Whenever this happened, I know that it was post-Columbine — that’s why I noticed the trench coats.

I closed my office door as quietly as I could and listened as they came down the hallway. They weren’t talking, just walking. Several minutes later, they were back. They seemed to be making a circuit of the third floor (a large square). I called the campus police and explained, as quietly as I could, what was happening. Someone came to check it out, and as I later learned, the walkers were part of a gamer group that was meeting in the building. Yes, on a Sunday morning. Maybe they were walking to burn off nervous energy — who knows?

On another Sunday morning, I cut through a study lounge on my way to the men’s room. The lounge lights came on automatically, and I saw a young woman asleep on a sofa. I let her sleep and went about my business, baffled as to how someone might be sleeping on a Sunday morning in a locked-all-weekend classroom building. I did though send an e-mail to campus police about the need for outside doors that really locked.

There are indeed many circumstances in which students and faculty of color are made to feel that a college campus isn’t really their place. I remember telling one young woman of color, unhappy about a grade on an essay, “Don’t you think I know that you’re a good student?” No, she had no reason to assume that I knew that. She had learned to feel that teachers always already assumed that her abilities were marginal. But she worked on her writing and saw her grade soar. Yes, an A.

The Smith College scenario seems to admit of no such pleasant ending.

If you’ve been wondering, the walkers, presumably students, were white, which did nothing to make them appear, to my eyes, anyway, less “out of place.” The sleeper was a woman of color. Like any other student in a presumably locked classroom building on a Sunday morning, she too appeared to be “out of place.” Not because of color — just because the building was supposed to be locked.

Thursday, February 25, 2021


From The Daily Beast, “Three Percenter Truck at Capitol on Jan. 6 Belongs to Hitler-Quoting Rep’s Husband”:

A pickup truck parked at the United States Capitol and bearing a Three Percenter militia sticker on the day of the Jan. 6 riot belongs to the husband of freshman U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, who approvingly quoted Adolf Hitler a day earlier.

Researchers on Twitter first noticed the Ford pickup truck with the far-right militia’s decal parked on the Capitol grounds in footage posted to social media and taken by CBS News.
Oh, the Millers, Mary and Chris. On Twitter she’s now called #HitlerLady. And he’s #Sedition3PTruck. She’s “my” representative in Congress. He’s “my” rep in the Illinois House.


February 26: Chris Miller has now given two explanations of the sticker. One, in the Daily Beast article:
“Army friend gave me decal. Thought it was a cool decal. Took it off because of negative pub,” Miller wrote in an email late Thursday. He says he “never was member” of the militia and “didn’t know anything about 3% till fake news started this fake story and read about them.”
A different explanation, given to a Nexstar outlet:
“My son received the sticker that was on my truck from a family friend who said that it represented patriotism and love of country,” Miller said. “The original group, which has disbanded, was not a violent anti-government group. They were not involved in the Jan. 6th riots. They have issued a statement distancing themselves from the extremists who have copied their name. I have since removed the sticker. My intention was to display what I thought was a patriotic statement. I love our country and consider myself a patriot. My intention was not to hurt or offend anyone but simply to express what I thought was a statement of patriotism. God bless America.”

February 27: The Chicago Tribune reports that the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association has asked for a state investigation of Chris Miller. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R, Illinois-16) also supports an investigation.

February 27: ABC News reports that Chris Miller spoke in front of 3P and QAnon banners last May. You can see the performance on Miller’s Facebook page.

February 27: Here’s Mary Miller on February 22, sans mask, among hundreds of people at a largely maskless indoor event for Illinois gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey. You can see her at the 1:10 mark. And listen to what Bailey has to say about masks. Christ, what an airhole.

February 28: USA Today and The Washington Post have picked up the truck story. To its credit, the Post includes Chris Miller’s two explanations of how the decal ended up in his possession.

March 1: From the Chicago Sun-Times :
llinois House Democrats introduced a resolution Monday condemning Republican state Rep. Chris Miller for slapping a decal with the logo of a far-right anti-government militia group on his pick-up truck and accusing him of helping incite the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Here’s the text of the resolution.


March 6: The Miller have made it into Vanity Fair: “Were Republican Lawmakers In On the U.S. Capitol Siege?”


March 19: The Illinois House has voted to censure Chris Miller, 57 to 36, with no Republican votes for censure.

Related posts
Chris Miller, no pandemic : January 5 and 6 in D.C., with Mary Miller : The objectors included Mary Miller : A letter to Mary Miller : Mary Miller, with no mask : Mary Miller, still in trouble : His ’n’ resignations are in order : Mary Miller in The New Yorker : Mary Miller vs. AOC

An on-screen jump-seat

[Barry Sullivan joins Ann Dvorak, Louis Calhern, and Lana Turner in a cab. From A Life of Her Own (dir. George Cukor, 1950). Click either image for a larger view.]

I know about jump-seats from reading J.D. Salinger. I was inordinately happy to see a jump-seat in a movie.

Kudlick plumbing

[Dustin, February 25, 2021.]

The digital scale sometimes gives a different result on a second try. That’s why Helen invokes the movies: “So it’s like in ‘Dirty Harry,’ right? You’ve got to ask yourself one question.” Thus the panel above.

I think there are further questions to ask about today’s Dustin.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Separated at birth

  [Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and Ernest Angley. Click either image for a larger view.]

I’ll grant that there’s an age difference. But the resemblance is unmistakable.

El Chapo has been in the news of course. Seeing a photograph of him (not this one) is what made me think of Ernest Angley. If that name is unfamiliar, you probably didn’t watch enough UHF television as a teenager. Angley was and is a piece of work, as the Wikipedia article about him makes clear. What the article doesn’t describe is his long history of healing services and faux miracles: ending addictions, removing cancers, making people hear and walk. But never, say, growing someone a limb. “Thou foul nicotine devils, come out!”

Also separated at birth
Claude Akins and Simon Oakland : Nicholson Baker and Lawrence Ferlinghetti : Bérénice Bejo and Paula Beer : Ted Berrigan and C. Everett Koop : David Bowie and Karl Held : Victor Buono and Dan Seymour : Ernie Bushmiller and Red Rodney : John Davis Chandler and Steve Buscemi : Ray Collins and Mississippi John Hurt : Broderick Crawford and Vladimir Nabokov : Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy : Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Gough : Henry Daniell and Anthony Wiener : Jacques Derrida, Peter Falk, and William Hopper : Adam Driver and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska : Charles Grassley and Abraham Jebediah Simpson II : Elaine Hansen (of Davey and Goliath) and Blanche Lincoln : Barbara Hale and Vivien Leigh : Harriet Sansom Harris and Phoebe Nicholls : Steven Isserlis and Pat Metheny : Colonel Wilhelm Klink and Rudy Giuliani : Ton Koopman and Oliver Sacks : Steve Lacy and Myron McCormick : Don Lake and Andrew Tombes : William H. Macy and Michael A. Monahan : Fredric March and Tobey Maguire : Jean Renoir and Steve Wozniak : Molly Ringwald and Victoria Zinny

George Sanders and a Ticonderoga

[George Sanders and pencil, in Witness to Murder (dir. Roy Rowland, 1954). Click for a larger view.]

That’s a Dixon Ticonderoga, no doubt. The ferrule gives it away.

The Ticonderoga appears in a number of OCA posts, sometimes starring, sometimes in a supporting role. Among the other cast members: John Garfield, June Lockhart, Toni Morrison, Lloyd Nolan, and Jon Provost.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919–2021)

No. 20, from A Coney Island of the Mind (New York: New Directions, 1958).

The poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti has died at the age of 101. The New York Times has an obituary with a 2007 video feature, “The Last Word.” The San Francisco Chronicle has an obituary with a large slideshow.

Dick Gallup (1942–2021)

From “The Wacking of the Fruit Trees,” in Above the Treeline (Bolinas, CA: Big Sky, 1976).

The poet Dick Gallup died last month at the age of seventy-nine. With Ted Berrigan, Joe Brainard, and Ron Padgett, he belonged to what John Ashbery jokingly called “the soi-disant Tulsa School” of poetry. Here, from Tulsa Public Radio, is an obituary.

[Ashbery was making a joke on the so-called New York School of poetry.]

The return of Century 21

Century 21 Stores went out of business last year. And now they plan to return.

Today’s sequence of posts might seem random, but that Proust post is bordered by two madeleines: Nancy’s charlotte russe and, in my imagination at least, a briefcase from my school days, bought at Century 21. The briefcase looked like this one, but it would have been much cheaper. I still remember the smell. And I still remember eating charlotte russe walking home from the candy store on 13th Avenue.

The Seventy-Five Pages

In The Guardian, news of long-lost pages from Proust: “The Seventy-Five Pages, out next month, contains germinal versions of episodes developed in In Search of Lost Time and opens ‘the primitive Proustian crypt.’” Alas: “An English translation has yet to be announced.”

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Nancy’s charlotte russe

[Nancy, July 11, 1955. Click for a larger view.]

Nancy has asked Sluggo if he’d like to join her for lunch. What’s she having? Leftovers. “Naw---I hate leftovers.” Nancy wonders if she should have told him.

That treat that looks sort of like a cupcake? Not a cupcake. That’s a charlotte russe. It’s a New York thing. Nancy spoke of the charlotte russe in 1944. Today’s strip is the first in which I’ve noticed one.

Yesterday’s Nancy is today’s Nancy.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[About “---”: the Nancy dash is made of “some hyphens.”]

Monday, February 22, 2021

Movie method

Matt Thomas wondered how I get movies for our household. Here’s a more detailed answer than the one I gave in a comment.

I’m the one who usually does the looking. The sources, via Roku: the Criterion Channel, TCM on-demand, and YouTube. With Criterion and TCM, it’s just a matter of seeing what’s available and for how long. YouTube requires greater craftiness. Sometimes a movie will prompt me to search for a director’s name or actor’s name to find other films. I’ll sometimes check a title in the IMDb to look for cast members who might be of interest.

I like to limit YouTube searches to the current month to avoid bringing up the usual suspects. So I’ll search for, say, film noir — why is it always film noir? — and look at what’s been uploaded in February. I’ve learned to ignore links that promise Full Movie with no time listed; they’re just come-ons to get the gullible to visit some other site. I’ve also learned to not ignore links with no movie title; they almost always turn out to be genuine uploads trying to fly under the copyright radar.

I’m enormously grateful for the possibilities that the Criterion Channel and TCM offer, but I love the hunt with YouTube. It reminds me of nosing around used-book stores in search of something worthwhile. For instance: The Suspect (dir. Robert Siodmak, 1944), Lost Boundaries (dir. Alfred L. Werker, 1949), Jazz Dance (dir. Roger Tilton, 1954), The Case Against Brooklyn (dir. Paul Wendkos, 1958).


I forgot about my university’s library, which has a vast DVD collection. But there’s no browsing now, and I try to stay off campus anyway.

Twelve movies

[One to four stars. Four sentences each. No spoilers.]

Witness to Murder (dir. Roy Rowland, 1954). This film beat Rear Window to the punch, with an apartment dweller unable to convince the authorities about what’s happened across the way. The apartment dweller here is Barbara Stanwyck, a career woman (interior decorator) who cannot get the patriarchy (Gary Merrill) to take her seriously. George Sanders is the neighbor across the way, an exceedingly sinister neighbor whom the authorities should be taking a lot more seriously. The real star: John Alton’s cinematography, making everything inky black or brilliantly luminous. ★★★★


84 Charing Cross Road (dir. David Jones, 1987). A sweet movie, made from the correspondence between Manhattanite Helene Hanff and Marks & Co., an antiquarian London bookshop. The correspondence (collected in Hanff’s book 84, Charing Cross Road ), begins with a brief inquiry about buying books (Hanff is a writer without much money) and turns into a twenty-year relationship founded on good humor and generosity. With Anne Bancroft as Hanff and Anthony Hopkins as Marks employee Frank Doel. And if you’re wondering why Hanff never took advantage of Manhattan’s many used-book stores: she was an Anglophile. ★★★★


Quiet Please, Murder (dir. John Larkin, 1942). George Sanders plays a book thief and forger whose efforts pull him into ever more dangerous territory. Gail Patrick is his sales rep, so to speak. Almost all of the movie’s seventy minutes are set in a public library, at or after closing time, with lots of running around in the dark and a short explanation of the Dewey Decimal System. What this movie needs is much less of run-of-the-mill detective Hal McByrne (Richard Denning) and much more of Sanders, psychobabbling about masochism and the need to take risks and be punished. ★★


The Killer That Stalked New York (dir. Earl McEvoy, 1950). I wrote a post about what this movie shows us of a city’s response to the threat of pandemic. Here I’ll concentrate on the movie as a movie. I’m predisposed to like any semi-documentary, so I may be giving the movie more credit (i.e., stars) than it deserves. But it’s filled with Manhattan flavor and recognizable faces (Lola Albright, Jim Backus, Whit Bissell, Evelyn Keyes, Charles Korvin, Dorothy Malone, Art Smith). My favorite scene: the flophouse, with its brother and sister reunion. ★★★


Death of a Scoundrel (dir. Charles Martin, 1956). George Sanders as Clementi Sabourin, a Czech immigrant to the United States who builds a financial empire on the livelihoods and lives of those who stand in his way — and those who had no idea that they did. Yvonne De Carlo, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Coleen Gray provide excellent support as (just) three of the women in Sabourin’s life. My favorite moment: Sabourin’s sigh after a strenuous moment feigning remorse. I’d call Sabourin Trumpian, but Donald Trump** doesn’t even feign remorse. ★★★★


Man in the Dark (dir. Lew Landers, 1953). Edmond O’Brien as a criminal who undergoes brain surgery, removing his criminality and his memory, including his memory of where he stashed the $130,000 his cronies would like their share of. Aside from a strange episode at Santa Monica’s long-defunct Ocean Park Pier, the movie is inert, with cronies playing cards or administering beatings, and O’Brien failing to remember, followed by more cards, beatings, and memory failure. Fun to see Audrey Totter and — a surprise — Horace McMahon, later of Naked City, here on the wrong side of the law. Filmed with a 3-D Monster Chiller Horror Theatre gimmick, which explains the odd scenes in which a gun, a fist, a bird, a roller-coaster car move toward the viewer. ★★


Where Danger Lives (dir. John Farrow, 1950). One difficulty: accepting blasé Robert Mitchum as Dr. Jeff Cameron, or any doctor. A second: imagining that he’d ditch everything (and everyone) to run off with Margo Lannington (Faith Domergue). The picaresque misadventures that ensue help offset the lack of plausibility, as does Nicholas Musuraca’s cinematography. A good double-bill: this movie and They Live by Night (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1948). ★★★


A Life of Her Own (dir. George Cukor, 1950). Lily James (Lana Turner) leaves small-town Kansas for Manhattan, determined to make good as a model, and she does, and things get complicated. Fine performances from Louis Calhern, Tom Ewell, Ray Milland, and, just briefly, Ann Dvorak, as an older model whose career has ended: “Nobody can help anybody.” Bronislaw Kaper’s music, as Elaine pointed out, adds a Proustian element to the film. Strong stuff here: aging, disability, infidelity, suicide, and renunciation, with one moment of flinching at the end. ★★★★


The Raging Tide (dir. George Sherman, 1951). A strange premise: with all exits from San Francisco blocked, a gangster (Richard Conte) hides out after a murder by stowing away on a fishing boat, where he changes the lives of father and son fishermen (Charles Bickford and Alex Nicol). Shelly Winters has top billing in a fairly minor role as a gangster’s girlfriend; John McIntire is the liveliest presence on screen, as a grizzled recovering alcoholic. Some exciting if predictable moments during a storm at sea, but the human relationships here are just flat, and the ending improbable. Most inert moment: tea and fortune cookies. ★★


The Woman on the Beach (dir. Jean Renoir, 1947). Like The Guilt of Janet Ames (also from 1947), another story, at least in part, of war trauma and redemption. Robert Ryan is an everyman Coast Guard lieutenant, tormented by nightmares of shipwreck, looking forward to marrying the manager of a boatyard (Nan Leslie). Joan Bennett is a mystery woman who collects firewood from the scene of a shipwreck and invites the lieutenant in for tea. But surprise: she’s a partner in a hard-drinking, violent marriage to a painter (Charles Bickford) who has lost his sight — or has he? My favorite line: “I finally realized: you’re sick.” ★★★


Private Hell 36 (dir. Don Siegel, 1954). From Ida Lupino and Collier Young’s The Filmmakers: a super-stylish, low-budget story of murder and counterfeit money. Lupino is a singer in a bar; Steve Cochran and Howard Duff are cops. “Just like some cheap murder mystery,” says one character: no, not at all. You won’t make sense of the title into well into the story. ★★★★


Tomorrow Is Another Day (dir. Felix E. Feist, 1951). Steve Cochran’s finest hour, I’d say: he plays Bill Clark, a man just out of prison (he went in at the age of thirteen and is out after eighteen years) who meets up with taxi dancer Cathy Higgins (Ruth Roman). Complications ensue, and when the two go on the lam, the movie turns into a noirish The Grapes of Wrath. The chemistry between the leads, born of his desperation and her wary affection, offsets the improbable ending. Like They Live by Night and Where Danger Lives, this one is available in the “Lovers on the Run” collection at the Criterion Channel. ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, February 21, 2021

“Too tired to cook”

From The New York Times : “What Our Food Reporters and Editors Make When They’re Too Tired to Cook.” Many ideas here for easy meals. Says one writer, “I am made of at least 35 percent sardine.”

But “too tired to cook” is a bit misleading. Pasta with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes sounds to me exactly like cooking.

[To read recipes without a NYT Cooking account, use Reader View in your browser.]

“Once in a Lifetime”

An especially good episode of BBC Radio 4’s Soul Music : Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime.”

[It’s from December. I’m catching up.]

Today’s Atlantic crossword

It’s ridiculously good fun. Try it.

[The Atlantic crossword, small on weekdays, non-existent on Saturday, 15 × 15 on Sunday, far surpasses the Los Angeles Times and New York Times mini-puzzles for inventiveness. Highly recommended.]


We’re on a city street, in Peekskill, New York, I suppose, with cinematography courtesy of Woody Bredell. Mr. Press (Jack Lambert) listens to a radio program, The Unsuspected.

And what does he see through his window?

[The Unsuspected (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1947). Click any image for a larger view.]

Yes, Mr. Press is trouble.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Small pleasures

Seeing what I’ve decided to call post tracks: the tracks that go through the snow from house to house in straight or nearly straight lines. Forget about shoveled sidewalks: postal carriers know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line through the snow.

[No. 3 in a series.]

Today’s Newsday Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword is by Greg Johnson. It’s a satisfying puzzle, if a bit on the easy side, mixing familiar crosswordese (35-A, three letters, “Insignificant amount”; 31-D, four letters, “Source for feta”) with novelty items (1-A, seven letters, “From where pesto originated”; 8-A, seven letters, “Former Snickers shelfmate”). Former? That shows how far removed I am from candy stores and bars.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

3-D, five letters, “Four-Emmy sitcom brother (1995–2004).” Because it was a great role.

21-D, nine letters, “Cheesy, saucy casserole.” Because it’s a casserole, a cheesy and saucy one. What’s not to like? More? Yes, please.

25-A, three letters, “Bowling ball residue.” Because eww, gross.

26-A, twelve letters, “Acrobats to compete at the 2024 Olympics.” Because I knew the answer.

36-A, fifteen letters, “Seating for oboists.” Because I like being reminded that there will be concerts again.

42-A, three letters, “Snack to dispense with.” Because I’ve always liked the idea of it, though I’m not sure I’d call it a snack. My first everyday carry.

My favorite answers in this puzzle are two that came in crosses, so I missed the wit while solving. I thought that the answer for 5-D, three letters, “Shortening in semi-sweet chocolate” had to be some sort of acronym and paid it no attention. I also missed the cleverness of 55-D, four letters, “Thing with an anchor.” I hope it has one. If not, things will be tough for that thing. Even with one, things will be tough.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, February 19, 2021

And speaking of AOC

She’s leading an effort (one of many, of course) to raise money for Texans in need. So far: one million dollars in one day.

[Yes, our household donated.]

Mary Miller vs. AOC

My representative in Congress, Mary (“Hitler was right on one thing”) Miller (R, Illinois-15), had the poor judgment to reply in an unimaginatively snarky spirit to a tweet from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, New York-14). Ocasio-Cortez replied in turn. And Miller got, as they say, ratioed.

Always bet on the Bronx.

Related posts
January 5 and 6 in D.C., with Mary Miller : The objectors included Mary Miller : A letter to Mary Miller : Mary Miller, with no mask : Mary Miller, still in trouble : Mary Miller in The New Yorker


Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, trans. Mark Treharne (New York: Penguin, 2002).

But guess what? Mme de Parme thinks that rubbers are wonderful: “It’s so practical! What a very sensible man.” And everyone else suddenly agrees.

In the spirit of self-mortification: This passage resonated with me. In my sophomore year of high school, the biology classes went on a one- or two-night excursion to a nature preserve. The boys slept in one barracks; girls, in another. I, for some reason, was the only boy in the barracks who had brought a pair of slippers. Unending mockery. And no Mme de Parme on site. Not that she would have made much difference.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, February 19, 2021. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Hi and Lois marks, to my knowledge, the second time a resonator guitar has appeared in the strip. Two were on display last November, when Chip was in a music store to — I think — get his guitar strings changed. Maybe he walked out with another guitar?

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

[I know: the guitar has no frets.]

Thursday, February 18, 2021

A twenty-four-hour Cruz

Ted Cruz flew to Cancun yesterday with his family as his fellow Texans struggled. He is now, the Associated Press says, “expected to return immediately.”

Every time I see Ted Cruz, I am glad that I am someone with more scruples. And a better beard.

[About the post title: I was thinking of the Gilligan’s Island theme song. But it seems that Cruz’s round-trip may take less than twenty-four hours. Ashley Parker reports that Cruz spent ten hours in Mexico and landed back in Texas “almost exactly” twenty-four hours after departing.]

The Duc and art

The Duc de Guermantes has been to The Hague. So he must have admired Vermeer’s View of Delft ? But the Duc is “less informed than arrogant”:

Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, trans. Mark Treharne (New York: Penguin, 2002).

Reminds me of Sarah Palin: “All of ’em!”

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

What’s happening in Texas

Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American has a helpful explanation of what’s happening in Texas. Here’s the rejoinder to the claims that wind turbines and a Green New Deal will destroy life as we know it:

Most of Texas is on its own power grid, a decision made in the 1930s to keep it clear of federal regulation. This means both that it avoids federal regulation and that it cannot import more electricity during periods of high demand. Apparently, as temperatures began to drop, people turned up electric heaters and needed more power than engineers had been told to design for, just as the ice shut down gas-fired plants and wind turbines froze. Demand for natural gas spiked and created a shortage.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) told Sean Hannity that the disaster “shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal” for the United States, but Dan Woodfin, a senior director for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the organization in charge of the state’s power grid, told Bloomberg that the frozen wind turbines were the smallest factor in the crisis. They supply only about 10% of the state’s power in the winter.

Frozen instruments at gas, coal, and nuclear plants, as well as shortages of natural gas, were the major culprits. To keep electricity prices low, ERCOT had not prepared for such a crisis. El Paso, which is not part of ERCOT but is instead linked to a larger grid that includes other states and thus is regulated, did, in fact, weatherize their equipment. Its customers lost power only briefly.

With climate change expected to intensify extremes of weather, the crisis in Texas indicates that our infrastructure will need to be reinforced to meet conditions it was not designed for.

“Wall lichen and cat fur”

The Guermantes complexion, hair, wit:

Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, trans. Mark Treharne (New York: Penguin, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

H. Neil Matkin again

It’s still a good day not to be teaching at a campus that has H. Neil Matkin as its president. L.D. Burnett explains why: “What a Public-Information Act Request Revealed About My College President” (The Chronicle of Higher Education).

A related post
Meet H. Neil Matkin

[You can read Chronicle articles that aren’t behind the paywall using Reader View or the Kill Sticky Headers bookmarklet.]

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

William Parker in the NYT

“He’s the kind of figure it might be tempting to label a giant if such shorthand weren’t sure to strike him as distastefully hierarchical”: The New York Times has an article about the bassist and composer William Parker. His latest release is a 10-CD set, Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World.

Related posts
The William Parker Quartet : Wood Flute Songs

Milford Graves (1941–2021)

Milford Graves has died at the age of seventy-nine. Never heard of him? That’s okay. His website describes him as “percussionist, acupuncturist, herbalist, martial artist, programmer, and professor.”

NPR has an obituary. And here, from YouTube, are fifteen wild minutes with Graves and John Zorn.


February 22: The New York Times has an obituary.

The Beach Boys at the zoo

Look: it’s long-lost footage of the Beach Boys in 1966 at the San Diego Zoo. That’s where George Jerman shot the cover photograph for Pet Sounds.

Did the zoo really ban Messrs. Wilson, Wilson, Wilson, Jardine, Johnston, and Love for life? It’s clear at least that the Boys were not welcome to return. Here’s why.

Related reading
All OCA Beach Boys posts (Pinboard)


I was teaching something by Digable Planets — no doubt “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” — but I couldn’t find the tune on the cassette. I may have put the cassette in the player the wrong way round.

Related reading
All OCA teaching dreams (Pinboard)

[This is the twenty-first teaching-related dream I’ve had since I retired. In all but one, something has gone wrong.]

Monday, February 15, 2021

2-D, 9-A

Elaine made me a Valentine’s Day crossword. “Poof — you’re a crossword!” she said.

But seriously: what she made was a deeply transgressive puzzle, with uncrossed letters, a two-letter answer (US), and red squares instead of black.

One sneaky clue: 2-D, four letters, “Chat or film.” And my favorite, also sneaky: 9-D, four letters, “Favorite pad.” I was not expecting such sneakiness.

Clues shared with permission. Answers in the comments.

Play, do

[From the New Yorker website.]

This phrasing surprises me, but a quick search confirms that play is a common verb with crosswords. Still, it’s never occurred to me to play the crossword. I do it, or them. Maybe do sounds a little lowbrow to The New Yorker ?

[Google: “play the crossword,” 892,000 results; “do the crossword,” 1,330,000. The Google Ngram Viewer returns no results for “play the crossword.”]

A Grape-Nuts shortage

I somehow missed it. From The New York Times:

After a monthslong, nationwide shortage of its polarizing cereal, the maker of Grape-Nuts is trying to reassure customers that the familiar wheat-and-barley breakfast will soon be back, still with no grapes or nuts.

The cereal’s manufacturer, Post Consumer Brands, announced on Thursday that it would be shipping the cereal at full capacity by mid-March, after supply-chain constraints and higher demand during the pandemic caused a shortage in late 2020.

“We recognize that the temporary Grape-Nuts shortage has been frustrating to fans given that Grape-Nuts is a one-of-a-kind cereal and there is no other cereal like it on the market,” Kristin DeRock, the cereal’s brand manager, said in a statement.

Well, there are cereals like it: Nutty Nuggets, Rocky Pellets, Stony Orbs, and other store brands. But our stash of “the familiar wheat-and-barley breakfast” should last through mid-March.

Other Grape-Nuts posts
Breakfast with the Food Network : Everything I always wanted to ask about Grape-Nuts : Cereals in the hands of an angry blog (Close-reading boxes)

[Monthslong? Yes, it’s a word. Only Nutty Nuggets are real.]

Sunday, February 14, 2021

“Weeks of inward winter”

At Dreamers Rise, a passage from Charlotte Brontë’s Villette that seems made for these times.

Bushmiller under the El

Today’s Zippy has one Ernie Bushmiller, one Nancy Ritz, and two beautiful black-and-white panels of life under the El. Which El? The El, the one in the strip.

Notice the meta sign in the first panel.

At the intersection of Nancy and Zippy
All OCA Nancy posts : Nancy and Zippy posts : Zippy posts(Pinboard)

Valentine’s Day

[Lapis lazuli heart amulet. From Egypt, 26th–30th Dynasty, c. 664–334 BCE. Height: 1 9/16″. From the Cesnola Collection, purchased by subscription, 1874–76. Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the online collection. Click for a larger view.]

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Here’s hoping

Harry Litman of the Los Angeles Times, on MSNBC just now: “Trump is going to be a criminal defendant, a civil defendant, or a prisoner for the rest of his life.”

0 for 2

I gave up watching the proceedings this morning and am learning only now that Donald Trump** has been acquitted in his second impeachment. I’m disappointed but not surprised.

I suspect that Joe Biden may have offered the House managers his perspective on whether to call witnesses. To call them, and thereby give Trump**’s attorneys the chance to turn the proceedings into an endless Fox/Newsmax/OAN spectacle, would serve only to derail Biden’s agenda in Congress and keep Trump** front and center in the public imagination. Even if witnesses were called, the spine-shortage in the Senate would still make acquittal the inevitable outcome. As it is, forty-three Republicans voted to acquit even with the report of Trump**’s “Well, Kevin” conversation in the record.

Damn those forty-three. Their moral compass points south, to Mar-a-Largo. And kudos to the seven who did the right thing.

Mutts ’n’ Miles

[Mutts, February 13, 2021.]

[Mutts, revised by me, February 13, 2021. Click either image for a larger view.]

Mooch has been at it all week, revising and revising again. When I saw today’s Mutts, I had to do some revising too. Don’t look too closely; I did the best I could to match the font. Listen to Miles Davis instead.

Related reading
All OCA Mutts posts (Pinboard) : No Kindle for me : Three records

Today’s Newsday Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword is by Matthew Sewell. It’s not a Stumper, but it has challenges (10-A, ten letters, “Heaven help me!”), cleverness (57-A, nine letters, “Twist entreaty”), novelty (17-A, nine letters, “Top for telemeetings”), and a fun fact (27-A, three letters, “Fighter who created the ‘Me? / Whee!’ poem (1975)”). Truly, this was a puzzle to 25-A, five letters, “Spend time relishing.”

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

16-A, five letters, “Beat guy now a Sir.” And a friend of a friend.

24-D, five letters, “Something checked in a case.” BANJO? VIOLA? Nah.

32-A, nine letters, “Box set holders.” I like box sets.

38-D, seven letters, “Creepy one?” There are so many possibilities these days.

40-A, four letters, “Plum kin.” Gentle misdirection. And a clue rhymes with another fruit.

46-D, four letters, “Works at home.” 17-A made me think for a moment that this answer was supposed to have something to do with telework.

My favorite clue in this puzzle is 57-A, “Twist entreaty.” My first thought: COMEONBABY, but that’s ten letters, and I’m no great shakes on the dance floor anyway.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Stacey Plaskett again

Representative Stacey Plaskett (D, Virgin Islands), a House impeachment manager, this afternoon:

“The defense counsels put a lot of videos out in their defense, playing clip after clip of Black women talking about fighting for a cause, or an issue, or a policy. It was not lost on me that so many of them were people of color and women, Black women, Black women like myself who are sick and tired of being sick and tired for our children, your children, our children. This summer things happened that were violent, but there were also things that gave some of Black women great comfort. Seeing Amish people from Pennsylvania standing up with us, members of Congress fighting up with us. And so I thought we were past that. I think maybe we’re not.

“There are longstanding consequences, decisions like this, that will define who we are as a people, who America is. We have in this room made monumental decisions. You all have made monumental decisions. We’ve declared wars, passed civil-rights acts, ensured that no one in this country is a slave. Every American has the right to vote — unless you live in a territory. At this time some of these decisions are even controversial. But history has shown that they define us as a country and as a people. Today is one of those moments, and history will wait for our decision.”
The racism and misogyny of that defense presentation weren’t lost on me either. The presentation was made for “the base,” and it was base. The veil was exceedingly thin. Transparent, really.

A related post
It doesn’t get much plainer (Also Stacey Plaskett)

[My transcription, punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling (ensured ), from Aaron Rupar’s video tweeting of the trial.]

Danny Ray in the Times

The New York Times now has an obituary for Danny Ray, James Brown’s long-serving emcee and cape man.

A related post
Danny Ray (1935–2021)

Crooks and lawyers

It’s grimly hilarious to hear Donald Trump**’s lawyer Michael van der Veen accuse the House managers of “total intellectual dishonesty.” He’s the same Michael van der Veen who is widely reported to have called Trump** in 2019 “a fucking crook.”

[Of course, he denies it.]


A one-sentence paragraph:

Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, trans. Mark Treharne (New York: Penguin, 2002).

Here are some samples of Gallé glass. And here’s a Gallé vase with a winter scene.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Chick Corea (1941–2021)

The pianist and composer was seventy-nine. From the New York Times obituary:

Mr. Corea’s best-known band was Return to Forever, a collective with a rotating membership that nudged the genre of fusion into greater contact with Brazilian, Spanish and other global influences. It also provided Mr. Corea with a palette on which to experiment with a growing arsenal of new technologies.

But throughout his career he never abandoned his first love, the acoustic piano, on which his punctilious touch and crisp sense of harmony made his playing immediately distinctive.
Here’s a sample, with Corea putting Mozart and Gershwin together.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Citing Voltaire

Representative Jamie Raskin (D, Maryland-8) and his fellow House managers continue to do a great job in presenting the case against Donald Trump**. In arguing against the First Amendment defense Trump**’s lawyers are expected to present, Raskin today cited Voltaire:

“You know, Voltaire said, famously, and our Founders knew it, ‘I may disagree with everything you say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it.’ President Trump says, ‘Because I disagree with everything you say, I will overturn your popular election and incite insurrection against the government.’ And we might take a moment to consider another Voltaire insight, which a high-school teacher of mine told me when a student asked, ‘When was the beginning of the Enlightenement?’ And she said, ‘I think it was when Voltaire said, “Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”’”
Did Voltaire really say (write) those things? Yes, at least roughly. Someone has already done the work of figuring it out, and did so back in December. Read Walter Olson’s “The Origins of a Warning from Voltaire” for the details.

You can watch Rep. Raskin cite Voltaire in this C-SPAN clip, beginning at 15:26.

A related post
Voltaire on intolerance

[My transcription and punctuation. How great to have been a law student in a class with Professor Raskin, eh?]


The New York Times seems to have a thing for the poet Frederick Seidel. He’s so edgy, so transgressive, so — what’s the word I’m looking for? Yes, rich. From a recent review, which dubs Seidel a “dark prince of American poetry”:

He writes often about motorcycles. Like his shoes, he has them custom-made. In one early poem, he asked: “What definition of beauty can exclude / The MV Agusta racing 500-3, / From the land of Donatello, with blatting megaphones?” His poems are life force and death wish. He’s the only living poet who could creditably be played by Nicolas Cage in a biopic.
Seidel is eighty-four.

This post is a partial explanation of why I usually skip Times book reviews.

A related post
Strunk and White and Seidel (Also with motorcycles)

Food for Love

A streaming concert, tomorrow night, 7:00 Eastern, Food for Love, to benefit New Mexico residents facing hunger. You can see the full list of participants here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

It doesn’t get much plainer

Representative Stacey Plaskett (D, Virgin Islands), this afternoon:

“The vice president, the Speaker of the House, the first and second in line to the presidency, were performing their constitutional duties, presiding over the election certification. And they were put in danger, because President Trump put his own desires, his own need for power, over his duty to the Constitution and our democratic process. President Trump put a target on their backs, and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
The House managers are making their case with impressive clarity and force. “Trump’s mob,” “his mob”: that’s effective, and true to the facts. Keep saying it, please. It may not change many senators’ minds, but it will certainly register with at least some voters.

How to improve writing (no. 90)

In The New York Times, Lauren Oyler makes a case for semicolons. I was struck by this passage:

That semicolons, unlike most other punctuation marks, are fully optional and relatively unusual lends them power; when you use one, you are doing something purposefully, by choice, at a time when motivations are vague and intentions often denied. And there are very few opportunities in life to have it both ways; semicolons are the rare instance in which you can; there is absolutely no downside.
Well, there can be. A downside, that is. I’d alter the punctuation of that last long sentence to give its first clause more weight and to join the next two more gracefully:
That semicolons, unlike most other punctuation marks, are fully optional and relatively unusual lends them power; when you use one, you are doing something purposefully, by choice, at a time when motivations are vague and intentions often denied. And there are very few opportunities in life to have it both ways. Semicolons are the rare instance in which you can, and there is absolutely no downside.
But semicolons as an instance? I want to revise a little more:
That semicolons, unlike most other punctuation marks, are fully optional and relatively unusual lends them power; when you use one, you are doing something purposefully, by choice, at a time when motivations are vague and intentions often denied. There are very few opportunities in life to have it both ways. Semicolons let you do so, and there is absolutely no downside.
Or better still:
That semicolons, unlike most other punctuation marks, are fully optional and relatively unusual lends them power; when you use one, you are doing something purposefully, by choice, at a time when motivations are vague and intentions often denied. There are very few opportunities in life to have it both ways. Semicolons let you do so, with no downside.
I’m still not sure what it means here to have it both ways, but I do know from semicolons. In a 2007 post titled How to punctuate more sentences, I wrote:
One caution: it’s easy to overuse the semicolon. As an undergraduate, I often used semicolons indiscriminately; I joined sentences together in long, unwieldy chains; my excitement about tying ideas together carried me away; as you can see in this example, the result is not reader-friendly.
Related reading
All OCA “How to improve writing” posts : All semicolon posts

[This post, which began as a way to call attention to this Times piece, has turned out to be no. 90 in a series dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Charles Mingus and Spider-Man

Thinking about Charles Mingus and television theme music made me realize: the theme for the 1960s cartoon series Spider-Man, by Bob Harris and Paul Francis Webster, sounds heavily indebted to Mingus’s “Boogie Stop Shuffle.”

Bob Harris wrote the theme music for Lolita. (Not “Lolita Ya Ya”; that’s Nelson Riddle.) Paul Francis Webster, lyricist, worked with Duke Ellington on songs for the 1941 musical revue Jump for Joy, “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” among others. It’s easy to imagine that someone had been listening to Mingus.

Charles Mingus at Bremen

Charles Mingus at Bremen, 1964 & 1975. 4 CDs. Sunnyside. 2020.

Hope So Eric : Fables of Faubus : Piano Solo [A.T.F.W.] : Sophisticated Lady (Duke Ellington) : Parkeriana : Meditations on Integration

Charles Mingus, bass; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; Clifford Jordan, tenor saxophone; Jaki Byard, piano; Dannie Richmond, drums. Recorded in concert, April 16, 1964, Bremen, Germany. Total time: 1:54:46.


Sue’s Changes : For Harry Carney (Sy Oliver) : Free Cell Block F, ’Tis Nazi USA : Black Bats And Poles (Walrath) : Fables of Faubus : Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love : Cherokee (Ray Noble) : Remember Rockefeller at Attica : Devil Blues (Mingus-Adams-Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown)

Charles Mingus, bass; Jack Walrath, trumpet; George Adams, tenor sax, vocals; Don Pullen, piano; Dannie Richmond, drums. Recorded in concert, July 9, 1975, Bremen, Germany. Total time: 1:59:32.

All compositions by Charles Mingus except as noted.

At one point, as I listened and made notes, I summarized: LIT! Both performances, all players, were and are lit, on fire and burning bright, in four hours of music that make most (so-called) jazz sound pedestrian and predictable by comparison. A few highlights:

“Hope So Eric”: Also known as “Praying with Eric” and “So Long Eric (Don’t Stay Over There Too Long).” A twelve-bar blues that has always sounded to me like great theme music for an early-’60s cop show. Dolphy plays with extreme abandon here. It’s still inconceivable to me that he would die just two and a half months later.

“Fables of Faubus”: The longest recording of this composition I’ve heard, with extended forays into bits of Americana: “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “You’re in the Army Now,” and others. Here again Dolphy is the final soloist, and his bass clarinet is torrential.

“Parkeriana”: A collage of themes by or played by Charlie Parker. But also: Johnny Coles spoofs Kind of Blue, and Jaki Byard breaks into stride piano on the changes of “I Got Rhythm.”

“Sue’s Changes”: A multi-themed composition depicting, Mingus said, the changing moods of his partner Sue Mingus. I think of the themes as an urbane promenade followed by a brisk walk followed by an increasingly frantic run. And repeat. Walrath is sharp and precise; Pullen, heady and swirling; Adams, expressionist but always in control.

“Fables of Faubus”: An almost cartoonish version of this mordant melody, complete with backbeat and a tremendously melodic solo from Dannie Richmond, with the horns pitching in. The segregationist Orval Faubus was then eight years out of office as the governor of Arkansas. The updated lyrics mention Gerald Ford.

“Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”: One of Mingus’s most beautiful melodies, with a strong touch of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and a great bass solo.

“Devil Blues”: And suddenly we’re listening to a blues band, one with an incredible bassist, and with Adams shouting lyrics by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. This tune was apparently put together to please the crowds at Max’s Kansas City, who wanted vocals. Sheesh.

The kicker: the concerts were an hour (1964) and half an hour (1975) longer than what we have here. Was the rest of the music lost? Or still unreleased?

Related reading
All OCA Mingus posts (Pinboard)

[“A.T.F.W.”: Art Tatum, Fats Waller.]

Tuesday, February 9, 2021


I’m listening to the arguments from Donald Trump**’s lawyers today via C-SPAN, as much as I can bear. Which might not be much more. Bruce Castor is up, and he sounds like the worst college lecturer imaginable — self-involved, stating and restating the obvious, and meandering with a mazy motion like the sacred river Alph in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” And enough with the Everett Dirksen: “the gallant men and women of the Senate.” Aiiee.

Here’s my favorite horrible Castor sentence so far. Read carefully:

“The only thing that stands between the bitter infighting that led to the downfall of the Greek republic and the Roman republic and the American republic is the Senate of the United States.”

Stay for the Longfellow. Aiiee.

A January 6 compilation

If you missed the video compilation presented by Representative Jamie Raskin (D, Maryland-8) today, here it is. With sound throughout, it’s far more chilling than the already chilling photographs and silent clips that loop as talking heads talk on cable news.

“Trump’s mob”: exactly.

Domestic comedy

“We must have embarrassed people back then with our PDAs.”

“It wasn’t known as a PDA yet. So we didn’t.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Disambiguation: PDA here stands for “public display of affection,” not “personal digital assistant.”]

“Inexplicable shapes”

Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, trans. Mark Treharne (New York: Penguin, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Monday, February 8, 2021

A game-style map

My son Ben made a game-style map of Blue Hills Reservation, Massachusetts. What is Blue Hills Reservation, you may ask? This.

Extra credit: Find the hearth.

A joke in the traditional manner

Did you hear about the new insect hybrid?

The punchline is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Did you hear about the cow coloratura? : Did you hear about the shape-shifting car? : Did you hear about the thieving produce clerk? : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : How do amoebas communicate? : How do ghosts hide their wrinkles? : How do worms get to the supermarket? : Of all the songs in the Great American Songbook, which is the favorite of pirates? : What did the doctor tell his forgetful patient to do? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist? : What is the favorite toy of philosophers’ children? : What’s the name of the Illinois town where dentists want to live? : What’s the worst thing about owning nine houses? : What was the shepherd doing in the garden? : Where do amoebas golf? : Where does Paul Drake keep his hot tips? : Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money? : Why are supervillains good at staying warm in the winter? : Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels? : Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies? : Why did the ophthalmologist and his wife split up? : Why does Marie Kondo never win at poker? : Why is the Fonz so cool? : Why sharpen your pencil to write a Dad joke? : Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He gets credit for the Autobahn, the elementary school, the Golden Retriever, Bela Lugosi, Samuel Clemens, the doctor, the plumber, the senior citizen, Oliver Hardy, and the ophthalmologist. Elaine gets credit for the Illinois town. Ben gets credit for the supervillains in winter. My dad was making such jokes long before anyone called them “dad jokes.” I continue in the traditional manner.]

Sunday, February 7, 2021


From a New York Times article about Marjorie Taylor Green:

She’s the latest descendant in a lineage of Republican women who embrace a boffo radicalism, who delight in making trouble and in causing offense.
Boffo ? The word hardly fits. Merriam-Webster : “extremely successful : sensational.” The Oxford English Dictionary: “Of a laugh: uproarious, unrestrained, hearty. Of a joke, act, show, etc.: uproariously or boisterously funny, hilarious.”

I suspect that boffo might have replaced a word an editor deemed less tactful. Perhaps gonzo ? Or bonkers ?

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My iPhone tells me that the temperature this morning is −0°F. Not 0°, −0°. I’m getting a kick out of inserting the degree sign (°) — it’s so easy to do so. Just go to Edit, Emoji & Symbols. The degree sign is in Punctuation. It looks like this: °. It’s not to be confused with the masculine ordinal indicator (º), which sounds to me like the name of a strange rare bird.

Wikipedia tells me that signed zero, −0 or +0, is used in computing. And then there’s this detail:

Informally, one may use the notation “−0” for a negative value that was rounded to zero. This notation may be useful when a negative sign is significant; for example, when tabulating Celsius temperatures, where a negative sign means below freezing.
I’m not sure why the Weather app would want to round up. From what, −.75°F? As if that’ll make it feel warmer?

By the way, It feels like −15°F.

Saturday, February 6, 2021


From The Washington Post:

President Donald Trump’s onslaught of falsehoods about the November election misled millions of Americans, undermined faith in the electoral system, sparked a deadly riot — and has now left taxpayers with a large, and growing, bill.

The total so far: $519 million.

Or $519,238,3699, to be exact.

Today’s Newsday Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword, by Greg Johnson, is another themeless puzzle that feels more difficult than it turns out to be. Still a bit tough though. I began with 8-A, seven letters, “Publisher sponsoring the National Spelling Bee,” and solved the puzzle quadrant by quadrant. The one clue that gave me fits, minor ones: 17-A, seven letters, “Put in motion.” Not tricky, but I was sure that my first answer was the right one.

Clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

13-D, eight letters, “Alternative to regular drip coffee.” But what does “regular” mean in this sentence? We’ve been making the alternative for years. It’s pretty venerable, even with a new-fangled name.

15-A, seven letters, “Dishes cooked to order.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard the answer. Feels nicely dowdy to me, in a heavy-china-plates-in-a-diner way.

26-A, three letters, “Fields of desserts.” Clever.

32-A, eight letters, “Daughter of Oedipus.” A giveaway, maybe. I like seeing her name, though she could be clued as something more than her father’s daughter, even if she was her father’s daughter.

38-A, five letters, “Prefix for note in ’90s Apple media events.” An unusual way to clue the answer, and a reminder of when Apple products could be said to “just work.”

49-A, eleven letters, “Cold cuts selection.” Pairs interestingly with 15-A: I’m not ashamed to say that this selection could be a dish cooked to order. Anyone with me?

52-D, three letters, “What’s the point?” Tricky, I think, as the first letter of the answer of the answer points in a wrong direction.

Never no spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Naked City Mongol

[Detective Adam Flint (Paul Burke) interviews hospital employee Grace (Bibi Osterwald). From the Naked City episode “Carrier” (April 24, 1963). Click for a larger view.]

There are eight million Mongols in the Naked City. This has been one of them, and the last one I noticed on our household’s trek back through the series.

“Carrier” is one of my favorite Naked City episodes. Sandy Dennis plays a woman with a rare contagious disease who leaves the isolation of a Welfare Island hospital to see Manhattan for herself. And there she meets someone who lives in isolation for a different reason. The episode, like every other episode of the series, is available at YouTube. It’s really extraordinary television.

Venn reading
All OCA Mongol posts : Mongol and Naked City posts : Naked City posts (Pinboard)

Catch a wave

Yep, that’s Poseidon. I recognize him from a vase.

Thanks, Ben.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Danny Ray (1935–2021)

Danny Ray, for forty-six years James Brown’s emcee and cape man, has died at the age of eighty-five. Says the James Brown Estate: “Mr. Ray was the second hardest working man in show business.”

Here’s a 1968 (?) example of the emcee at work, and another from 1974. And from The T.A.M.I. Show (1964), a celebrated instance of the cape routine. And here — why not? — is James Brown’s complete T.A.M.I Show performance. Holy smokes. The Rolling Stones made the ill-advised choice to go on after Brown.

Our fambly was fortunate to see James Brown and company in 2005, with Danny Ray, Tomi Rae, the Soul Generals, and the Bitter Sweets. A night to remember.

[“1968 (?)”: The video seems to have been misdated to avoid detection and removal for copyright infringement. Shh.]

Beep, beep

From Heather Cox Richardson’s latest daily commentary on the news:

While Republican lawmakers continue to grab headlines with outrageous behavior and obstructionism, President Biden has been derailing them in the only way no one has tried yet: ignoring them and governing. Only two weeks into his administration, this approach appears to be enormously effective.
[Insert Road Runner sound effect here.]

Safari 14.0.3 fixes 14.0.1 and .2

The problem with Safari that Mojave users (like me) first noticed in mid-November has been fixed. Safari 14.0.3 fixes a problem that began with 14.0.1 and continued with 14.0.2 — the inability to perform any task that involved opening the Finder from the browser, like, say, attaching or uploading a file. You know, trivial blue-moon stuff. Strange: Apple now offers updates for both 14.0.2 and 14.0.3 for Mojave, with the boxes for both downloads checked as a default.

After learning that Apple employees read all e-mail addressed to Tim Cook, I wrote to him, or them, in mid-December:

Hello Mr. Cook,

In 1985 my first computer was an Apple //c. I’m a liberal-arts type, but I nerded out creating macros for AppleWorks with Beagle Bros’ MacroWorks. I finally gave in and began using Windows in the 1990s. With Windows 7 on the horizon, I switched to a Mac in 2007 and have been a happy user ever since. My family and extended family are now all Mac, iPad, and iPhone users.

But right now I’m not a happy user. For those of us still (for whatever reasons) staying with Mojave, the recent 14.0.1 update breaks any button that opens the Finder to browse for a file. In other words: it’s no longer possible to attach a file in Gmail. (You can drag and drop, but sometimes that’s not appropriate.) It’s no longer possible to upload an image to Blogger. It’s no longer possible to do many, many ordinary tasks that require opening the Finder from Safari:

My solution to the problem was to reinstall Mojave, get the [then-new] security update, and stay with 14.0. From what I’ve read in Apple Community discussions, the problem that began with 14.0.1 persists with 14.0.2:

The problem with 14.0.1 has been a problem for over a month now, and 14.0.2 apparently does nothing to fix it. Several people have reported calls with tech support that yield no solution. At least a couple of people report being told by Apple tech support to use Chrome. Sheesh!

As I’m sure you will agree, Apple should do better by its customers. Please, make Safari work properly in Mojave.
As you can already guess, I received no reply. It’s impossible for me to tell from the one Apple document about 14.0.3 I can find that Apple is acknowledging a problem that has been fixed. But Safari, at least for now, works.

[Remember the Apple slogan “It just works”? Not so much, as this problem and the many problems with Catalina and Big Sur make clear.]